Thursday, January 4, 2018

January 4 - St. Elizabeth Seton

+ Elizabeth Ann Seton was born into an influential Episcopalian family, the daughter of Dr. Richard Bayley. She was raised in New York high society of the late 18th century. Her mother died when Elizabeth was three years old, her baby sister a year later. In 1794 at the age of 19 she married the wealthy businessman William Magee Seton, and became the mother of five.

About ten years into the marriage, William’s business failed, and soon after he died of tuberculosis, leaving Elizabeth an impoverished widow with five small children. For years Elizabeth had felt drawn to Catholicism, believing in the Real Presence of the Eucharist and in the lineage of the Church going back to Christ and the Apostles. She converted to Catholicism, entering the Church on March 14, 1805, alienating many of her strict Episcopalian family in the process.

To support her family, and insure the proper education of her children, she opened a school in Boston. Though a private and secular institution, from the beginning she ran it along the lines of a religious community. At the invitation of the archbishop, she established a Catholic girl’s school in Baltimore, Maryland (in conjunction with St. John Neumann) which initiated the parochial school system in America.

To run the system, she founded the Sisters of Charity in 1809, the first native American religious community for women, whose Rule was based on that of St. Vincent de Paul, of France. She and eighteen sisters comprised the first community based in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Mother Seton died in Emmitsburg on January 4, 1821.

By her death, her communities were twenty in number and spread throughout the United States, the rest of North America and South America, and Italy. She was beatified in 1963 by Pope John XXIII, and canonized on September 14, 1975 by Pope Paul VI.

Our readings today, though of the Christmas Season, fit in with a celebration honoring St Elizabeth Seton: St. John continues to speak about “children of God:” Mother Seton’s primary goal in life was to teach everyone, especially the young, that they can be – by participation in the life of the Church – real, true and authentic children of God. She also taught that the alternative is being a child of the devil who creates nothing but chaos and confusion, and is therefore easily recognizable.

The gospel passage shows Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus (who names him Rock (on which he would one day build the church)); Elizabeth Seton led so very many people, in so very many lands to Jesus for him to touch, and love and transform and lead to heaven – beginning at “her rock” on what is now the campus of Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg.

All you saints of God, praise the Lord!

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